COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – Steve Anderson (Salt Lake City, Utah) is one of the United States’ top male compound shooters. USA Archery spoke with Steve to learn about his experience as an archer, and how the fair play and friendships shared in the sport make archery so unique.
Anderson grew up in Boise, Idaho: “I originally started shooting archery when I was about 13 years old. I bow hunted with my uncles.” Anderson took a break from archery in high school when he shifted his focus to basketball. After shooting hoops through college, he returned to the target, this time for score: “I enjoy competing, so it wasn’t long before I started shooting competitively.”
Anderson quickly turned a competitive hobby into a career as a professional archer. In addition to being a member of the United States Archery Team, he is also a Hoyt Pro Staff shooter and an employee at Easton Technical Products.
Many people know Anderson as the Man of the People. He states, “I believe there are two reasons. One is because I work directly with the people in archery. Archery is a small sport, and it’s one where anybody can reach out to a top archer and get advice or tips from them. It sometimes takes me a few days (weeks, months), but I try to answer every question that I get. The sport has given a lot to me, so I try to give back where I can.”
“The other reason,” he added, on why he is known as the Man of the People, “is because I’m just some regular guy who decided to play this game and found a way to do well in it after struggling, not unlike many people who shoot today.” Anderson commented that anybody can be good at archery if they work hard enough: “I truly believe that most anyone can work their way into competitive form.”
Competitions often feature archers of varying experience levels and backgrounds. During a tournament, there is a lot of downtime between ends and while walking to and from the target, for archers to talk and relate to one another. Archers tend to help each other out, both on and off the field. “People enjoy fair play and are fairly good natured, in general. If we are capable, we lend a hand where we can. Matt Stutzman has lent his hands so many times that he never got them back,” joked Anderson about the Armless Archer.
“In archery, unlike other sports, our only opponent is the scoreboard,” commented Anderson. “There is no reason to be intimidated by an opponent.” Anderson mentions the atmosphere in archery, both in practice and in competition, enables people to make lifelong friendships and relationships. This uniqueness of our sport allows people from across the globe to find each other. “There are people who I compete against who I consider to be brothers of mine. But, it’s still ok to want to step up to the shooting line and figuratively destroy the scoreboard, figuratively leaving your friends and competitors in the dust.”
Not only has Anderson made lifelong friends through archery, he also met his wife, Mexico’s top compound archer Linda Ochoa-Anderson. Anderson’s favourite thing about his career in archery so far: “The fact that I met my wife in archery, and seeing the world with a bow in hand. I met my wife in Colombia at the World Games, and we have now competed together and traveled to about every corner of the globe sans Australia.”
“To be honest,” Anderson continued, “I expected to see Europe and the rest of the world playing in some low-level professional basketball league. Instead, I’m doing it with a bow in hand and arrows in the quiver all while wearing the Red, White and Blue on my back and competing for the greatest country on earth! To end this with a question of my own, I say, ‘How cool is that?!’”
Just a few weeks ago, the world’s most famous onscreen archer Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay entitled “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?“, which addressed revelations from the Sony hack that she was paid less for American Hustle than her co-stars, despite her A-list status and her Oscar. It’s a powerful, angry and self-aware read. “It’s hard for me to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t exactly relatable… [but] I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable,” she writes. “Fuck that.”
Sadly it’s a similar story in off-screen archery. Apart from a handful of track stars, it’s not a secret that being an elite Olympic athlete is rarely a path to great wealth – although in recurve archery that may depend on where you are from. But it seems that in compound it’s much harder to make a living as a woman than as a man.
I asked Crystal Gauvin for some details. She said: “In the US at NFAA events, pay in the pro division is 100% based on participants in that division. It varies by tournament but the payout is usually something like 65-80%, with registration fees for pro/championship division between $225-500. This system rewards high participation numbers in the championship (pro) division. However, unlike World Archery, and other events, people have the choice to shoot in the amateur (or ‘flight’) divisions OR the championship division, which has a much lower entry fee.”
“This creates a chicken/egg type situation where the women’s numbers stay low in the pro division, even as the number of women in the sport growths proportionally much more then men, because the payout is so low. Most tournaments in the US, I would have to win to just break even, coming in second means I lose money. As you can imagine, the majority of women that don’t realistically have a chance at winning will choose to shoot in the amateur class then instead of the pro, which then keeps the payout low. “
The differences in payout totals is one of the reasons that there appear to be zero full-time professional compound female archers, as opposed to a few dozen or so men. Most of the top women in the sport, it seems, either work a job outside of the sport or have support from a spouse or family.
The other problem is that anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that some of the bigger archery companies, especially in the USA, do not sponsor female athletes to anything like the degree they sponsor the male stars of the sport. This is despite the staggering growth in participation numbers specifically amongst women and children in the last few years, – which as we all know, Jennifer Lawrence had a lot to do with. It appears that a large segment of the industry still believes that women do not sell bows. You’d think it would be a marketing opportunity.
Pay inequity has come a long way in many sports, but still lags in others – the most glaring being, of course, soccer. At the international level, archery rates very highly for gender equality, a key part of the Olympic charter. The prize money is equal, the differences in sporting format are almost neutral and the ‘rock stars’ of the sport – especially in recurve – are more women than men. The now well-established World Archery mixed team format is rare in Olympic sport outside racquet events, but is increasingly becoming the norm and looks likely to feature in Tokyo.
But internationally, it’s very difficult for compound archers to compete at elite level and keep a roof over their heads. The recent, unedifying spectacle of Linda Ochoa offering to sell two of her bows to fund a World Cup trip highlights the problems faced, even at the very top.
It’s been an incredible month for women in archery. Sara Lopez, fresh off her dominant world cup season and a finals win in Mexico City, now appears to have smashed the 1440 record by five points at the Colombian nationals. It’s not yet ratified at this writing, but her score of 1424 is the single highest 1440 round in history by anyone, male or female, breaking Peter Elzinga’s 2009 record by five points.
There are arguments to be made for having completely open classes too – which already happens in some shooting events.
The 20-year-old Colombian archer already held the compound women’s world records for the 72-arrow qualification round and 15-arrow match at 50 metres. At the 2015 Colombian National Games, an Olympic-style event between the different regions in the country and held roughly every four years, she added two more world-best marks.
Lopez scored 1424 out of a possible 1440 points for the four-distance 1440 Round. Her distance scores (all out of a possible 360 for 36 arrows) were: 353 at 70 metres, 355 at 60 metres, 356 at 50 metres, 360/26X at 30 metres.
The previous compound women’s record for the full round was set by Kristina Heigenhauser in 2013 and stood at 1418.
Lopez also beat the 50-metre record, scoring two points more than Jamie van Natta’s 354, which was set in 2007.
All four distances and the combined score are also world bests.
Just amazing. Read the rest at: http://worldarchery.org/news/132649/colombias-lopez-shoots-highest-1440-round-history
Well that was fun, although getting up at 7am on a Sunday morning to watch it wasn’t. In the wrong timezone, here…
Full results here: http://www.worldarchery.org/EVENTS/World-Cup
Must repost something from the new trend of ‘podium selfies‘, the immensely talented mixed team recurve sixsome of Juan René Serrano, Aída Román, Mackenzie Brown, Brady Ellison, Naomi Folkard and Larry Godfrey. Looking forward to Medellin!
Reblog of a great couple of posts by Crystal Gauvin about her experiences at the Vegas Shoot, where she finished second in the ‘freestyle unlimited’ division (compound) as well as the Indoor World Cup final. Compound indoors, especially at Vegas, becomes all about achieving the maximum score in each round – the magical 300 mark usually referred to as ‘shooting clean’ – and she gives great insight into the difficulties of trying to achieve that least human of qualities: perfection.
Read both posts here:
SATURDAY 25th JANUARY
This, the largest indoor archery event ever held in the UK is being held in Telford. Of all places. The four stages of the archery indoor World Cup are held (in order) in Shanghai, Marrakech, Telford, and Las Vegas. One of these things is not like the other, as even a slightly bemused BBC Midlands crew points out on the Friday night. It reminds me of the “London. Paris. Peckham.” painted on the side of DelBoy’s van. Telford International Centre is a huge shed dumped beside an A-road and used for all the events that matter; Ultimate Dubs, Scale Model World, and the snooker in November. Now it’s being used for something important; and over 900 archers from 40 countries have turned out.
By the time I reach the venue, we are already in the fourth qualification stage of four: sixty arrows, recurve and compound, men and women, recurve and junior – although a couple of brave souls are shooting barebow, and one guy is shooting a horsebow with wooden arrows. Whatta man. The top 32 in each category go through to the eliminations. This tournament is completely open; you are free to turn up and make a score that challenges the greats, if you can. You can almost smell the intense concentration required, as well as the dejection from less vintage performances.
I’ve been trying, but I can’t think of another sport, anywhere, where you can just pitch up as a rank amateur and get to perform literally next to the world’s number one, an Olympic medallist, or a world record holder. All these things happened in Telford. You can run in the same city marathon as Haile Gebrselassie, but they don’t let you start next to him. Many other sports have open competitions, but the top people usually get a bye through. Here, you get to play with the best in the world, straight out. Disabled archers on the same field as everyone else. There’s something magical there. I wander the forests of carbon with my camera, finding joy and disappointment in equal measure.
Eliska Starostova, a friend now on the Czech national team is sponsored as an archer by her ‘other’ club Fujian White Crane Kung-Fu. Despite the heroic and (usually) positive sporting associations the general public have with archery, many traditions think of it more as a martial art; a discipline. Kung-fu and archery. It’s a good match-up. Self-discipline. Inner strength. Eliska beat one Naomi Folkard to win an indoor tournament last year. I watch the screens nervously as qualification wraps up while her name hovers around the cut line. Frowning with concentration, she ends up qualifying 26th in women’s recurve. Safety. The work has paid off. The gilded names go on, the vast amateur field get another shot at a second-chance tournament at some ungodly hour the next morning.
In the women’s recurve, a juggernaut arrived last night. Team LH from Korea; five archers, in identical uniforms at all times, no English, terrifyingly good. LH are full-time professionals, sponsored by the state housing company. They took five of the top six spots in qualification, out of ninety-eight top women archers from all over the world. It’s a bit like Real Madrid suddenly pitching up in League 2. The utter dominance of Korea in recurve archery, reinforced in spades over the last couple of years, has become a cornerstone of the international sport. As someone says to me, “I’m just glad they didn’t enter the men’s team. Or their compounders. Because we’d all have been f****ed.”
As the head to head competition starts, the focus narrows, and the thousand-yard-stares come out. With no wind or rain and the short distance involved, the indoor scores at this level are so high, that the winner or loser can be decided on basically “who blinks first.” Who is the first to shoot a nine rather than a ten. If your opponent can and does score thirty for a three-arrow end, you must be able to do the same. The set system allows for limited opportunities for catching up an error, but the fact remains that international archery competitions are brutal. Brutal on the nerves, brutal on the psyche. Your odds of making the final table are tiny. Poker fields. Over the PA, the results of matches are announced, the fallen are a who’s-who of big names. The world champions. The ones who get featured in the programme. (And Eliska, unfortunately, hammered by a German archer in the 1/16). In barely more than ten minutes, all that work is over.
Aida Roman and her coach watch each end back on video immediately after she finishes shooting it. She ends up beating her former coach, Song I Woo, who is one of the few archers on the line who looks like they are enjoying themselves.
I watch the quarter-final between Brady Ellison and Thomas Faucheron of France from a prime seat, a slow, ferocious battle. Brady is the huge star here. He has an immense presence on the line, slow, immensely relaxed. This Olympic medallist self-describes on social media as ‘a country boy who just likes to shoot his bow’. He spends most of the time when not shooting besieged by autograph-hunters.
Brady’s shots seem so strong, so still, so relaxed, that I wonder how he can be beaten. Faucheron holds and holds and holds (usually a road to disaster) yet somehow still manages to pull out the tens. It comes down to a one-arrow shootoff. If the preceding competitive segments were brutal, this is an even nastier weapon. Faucheron wins it, by millimetres. Brady sighs just a little and adjusts his cap, then congratulates him. Next day will be painless.
SUNDAY 26th JANUARY
Chris Wells is the communications director for the EAF. Why Telford, Chris? “Because we’ve used the area before, we saw real potential in the venue, there’s good transport links, hotels on site, plus we got excellent feedback from the archers who’ve been here before (the Back to Back tournament).” All excellent reasons. But unfortunately, it’s still Telford.
Great God, this is an awful place. One of the more famous 1960s new towns, it was created by municipal parthenogenesis, when someone decided to legitimise the existence of a bunch of Shropshire towns and villages by birthing a shopping centre in the middle and uniting them all in joyful retail. A few miles to the south is the bucolic Ironbridge, cradle of the Industrial Revolution and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But here is just the urtext inflorescence of Crap Britain, a vaporous hell of Wetherspoons and Costa, an ring-road Erewhon, a post-war concrete conurban fantasy guiding all to worship at the crumbling temple complex in the middle – which now has an Asda. Deserted on a Saturday night at 9pm, you can’t get from the “town centre” to the International Centre on the pavement – they’ve ripped it out and haven’t put anything down. You have to struggle through the muddy verges or take your chances on the A-road. Everyone in local hotels is turning up with muddy shoes, including me. Telford: the town that makes Slough look like Florence. Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, California, that: “The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there, there isn’t any there there.” When you get to Telford, there wasn’t anything there in the first place, but someone replaced it with f**k all anyway. Perhaps if you hurtle round the ring road fast enough you can achieve escape velocity from this Travelodge of a city.
The other half of this festival is devoted to trade, held in the hall next door. All the big archery manufacturers and many of the British retailers have taken a stall here. Most things are pretty familiar, so I decide to look for things which are new(ish).
New Fivics risers in pretty colours. Korean glamour.
Win & Win have started producing compound bows, with the usual attention to simplicity and excellence coupled with joyfully peculiar translations.
Shibuya stabs in awesome bright colours.
I spend a good deal of time talking to René Velarde Rast (above) of Aurel Archery, based in Germany, a man manufacturing some beautiful quality carbon arrows. He is gradually working on a business model based on excellent quality, personal service, and strong relationships with pro shops. Whether he can seriously challenge the Easton machine perhaps depends on long-entrenched attitudes changing; the product is obviously excellent. He is focussing entirely on target archery; no broadheads and skull penetration figures here. I would love to get a bunch of his shafts and piles down to my club; we are currently working collectively on putting together tricky components like bowstrings ourselves, and arrows are one of the more difficult elements of archery to get right (in London this is not helped by a complete lack of archery shops). Seizing control of the means of production, and reducing the import duty on American arrows would help. Rene is also producing aluminium and, uniquely, wood laminate shafts for traditional archers (below). Good show.
I meet up with some of the other London archers and we rattle around the place, waiting for the denouement. I meet Patrick, the hazy genius behind Uukha. I watch a BBC ‘Road To Rio’ TV crew desperately try, with Songi Woo’s help, to pull some quotes out of the Sphinx-like Koreans. After the junior finals have been completed, the main hall is closed off and turned round. We have been promised a special show for the big finale. Lights. Smoke. A show producer from Vegas has been pulled in. Broadcast engineers. The compound archers ‘headline’ this show above the recurvers, in a reversal of the usual order of events. I ask why. The focus is apparently being put on ‘on-the-spot-accuracy’, with tension and cameras and the like, and the inherently more accurate bow is taking centre stage – it should be noted that the main sponsors are also quite compound-oriented, too. They were hoping for more national BBC coverage, but it’s a difficult sell without some Brits in the final.
The show is indeed a show, designed for the room more than the TV. Aida Roman is first up in the bronze medal match, and she’s amazing. There’s a steely look to her shooting. A more ruthless competitor. If I’ve watched the Olympic individual climax a thousand times… There is no mistake here. She wins looking like a rock star. (If you are really bored, you can watch the feed and see me scurry out to take the picture below.)
After that, the Korean women put on a masterclass in form for the final, which goes to two shoot-offs. It’s not so much that they look effortless; it’s more that the technique is so ingrained that it looks more natural. It’s learned, like everyone else. It’s just better. The scores, as I check them later, would easily challenge the recurve men. Perhaps the missing media link is just that; remove men’s and women’s classes: totally open competition. I wonder if that’s an idea whose time has come.
All-American chisel-jawed superman Levi Morgan takes the bronze in men’s compound, and when asked how, says he ‘prayed real hard’. It’s about this time I notice the slogan in very small letters underneath the headline sponsor’s logo plastered everywhere. The joys of international archery; the frankly strange cultural clashes, the variety of people and stories united in a common goal. The festival has worked. The big show has come off. It wasn’t perfect, and there’s a way to go, but everything appears to be going in exactly the right direction. It was an event. Where does it go from here?
All pictures by me (except the one of Aida Roman post-release by Dean Alberga). All rights reserved. If you want to use them, ask me nicely.
Special thanks to Chris Wells. Was great to meet @StratfordArcher, @archeryashe, @martin_evans and the like. Cheers.
Stay tuned for an extensive interview with Patrick Huston, hope to bring you that tomorrow.
So myself and Mlle. Infinite Curve were having a coffee at lunchtime when she nudged me and said ‘Look what’s on the TV!”. Archery actually on the BBC news; Danielle Brown’s win at the AGB National Series followed by a familiar “you gonna do the Olympics then?” question, all on a proper BBC News 24 sports insert. Dani is always all kinds of awesome, and seeing her up there with Wiggo and Andy Murray instead of a mention in a tiny, tiny column at the back of the paper felt… good. Things have changed.